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Governor encourages intrastate travel

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 3, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Floridians told to continue to observe pandemic safety protocols

Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging residents to travel within the Sunshine State to help statewide tourism recover from economic losses due to COVID-19.

On Wednesday, DeSantis and VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO Dana Young visited Daytona Beach to emphasize the importance of the Florida tourism industry to launch a new marketing campaign leading into the Labor Day holiday weekend.

“This new intrastate marketing campaign is the latest step we’re taking to help get people back to work,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “While the pandemic is not over, and safety remains paramount, we encourage Floridians to venture out of their homes to enjoy everything our beautiful state has to offer.”

Young said the marketing company is “proud” to launch the in-state campaign to lend a hand to communities across Florida in their recovery.

“Our tourism businesses have been severely impacted, but there is no doubt that our state is still the best place to live and the best destination for travelers,” Young said Wednesday. “Together with Governor DeSantis, VISIT FLORIDA and our state’s tourism industry will not stop until we have fully recovered and every Floridian whose job was impacted by COVID-19 can get back to work as quickly as possible.”

According to DeSantis’ office, tourism accounted for more than 1.5 million jobs and $91 billion in revenue in 2019. Due to a global downturn in travel caused by COVID-19, Florida visitation dropped by more than 60 percent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020.

The governor’s office said the campaign will remind Floridians that their home state offers world-class tourism opportunities that most people must travel to other states and countries to experience.

For more information, go to https://www.visitflorida.org/.

Confirmed COVID-19 case at Oasis Middle School

In an email sent out to Oasis Middle School parents and employees, Principal Donnie Hopper confirmed a case of COVID-19 associated with the school. Hopper said a contact tracing investigation is being conducted that will determine those that had “direct exposures” identified with the confirmed case.

“Anyone who had direct exposure to the confirmed case will be contacted and sent home to quarantine for 14 days from the date of known exposure, in accordance with CDC and Florida Department of Health protocols,” Hopper wrote in his email. “The confirmed case is also isolated away from school in accordance with those same protocols.”

He said the school is continuing to take mitigation measures at this time and asks any faculty or student that feels ill to stay home.

Emergency Order to lift visitation restrictions in nursing homes

On Tuesday, at DeSantis’ direction, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director and State Coordinating Officer Jared Moskowitz issued an Emergency Order that lifts restrictions for visitation to nursing homes, assisted living facilities (ALFs), adult family-care homes, adult group homes and other long-term care facilities.

According to FDEM, the Emergency Order requires all visitors to wear PPE pursuant to the most recent CDC guidelines, and those not making physical contact still must wear a mask.

Per the Emergency Order, to accept general visitors, the facility must meet the following:

* No new facility-onset of resident COVID-19 cases within 14 days other than in a dedicated wing or unit that accepts COVID-19 cases from the community.

* If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the facility must immediately cease all indoor and outdoor visitation in the event that staff person was in the facility in the 10 days prior to the positive test.

* Sufficient staff to support management of visitors.

* Adequate PPE for facility staff; adequate cleaning and disinfecting supplies; and adequate capacity at referral hospitals for the facility.

According to FDEM, the Emergency Order “directs all facilities to ensure visitors are not quarantining, positive for COVID-19 or symptomatic. The Emergency Order also requires facilities to screen visitors, establish limits on the number of visitors allowed, schedule visitation ahead of time, clean and disinfect visiting areas between visitors and other protective measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

FDEM states that “general visitors will need to be 18 years of age or older, wear a face mask, sign a consent form indicating they understand the facility’s visitation policies, comply with facility-provided COVID-19 testing if offered and maintain social distance of at least six feet with staff and residents.”

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 637,013 total cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Florida, an increase of 3,571 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning.

More than 65,200 test results were reported to the Department of Health on Wednesday, Sept. 2. Of those reported tests, 6.23 percent tested positive. Percent positivity rates in new cases over the last 22 days have been 10% or less and under 7% the last nine.

The state saw its highest daily percentage of positive patients July 8, when 18.50 percent of tests reported were positive among 51,686 tests.

The death toll increased by 149 (eight occurring Wednesday) from the last update, reported among Lee, Bay, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Dade, Duval, Escambia, Glades, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter, Taylor and Volusia counties.

This does not mean all of the deaths occurred or were reported by local health care facilities on that day but that they were released in the state report that day after reports were processed.

According to FDOH’s Thursday report, “Today, data reported to DOH shows there has been a steady decline in the number of reported Florida resident deaths who were previously diagnosed with COVID-19. The fourth week of July compared to the fourth week of August, shows a 75 percent decrease in the average number of reported COVID-19 related deaths.”

A total of 4,724,739 individuals have been tested: 4,080,683 have tested negative, 7,043 tests were inconclusive and 3,509 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 39,428 Florida residents have been hospitalized at some point during their illness according to the state. There have been 11,800 deaths.

According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, at 12:45 p.m. Thursday, there were 3,437 (-112) hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.

The age groups of Florida residents that have yielded the most positive test results are 25-34 years old (19%), followed by 35-44(16%), 45-54 (16%) and 15-24(15%).

The highest hospitalization rate is found in patients 65-74 (20%), 75-84 (18%) and 55-64 (18%) years old.

In Lee County, 18,960 (+81) individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday; 7,719 in Fort Myers (+31), 4,378 in Cape Coral (+20), 3,731 in Lehigh Acres (+15), 1,218 in Bonita Springs (+3), 710 in North Fort Myers (+1), 442 in Estero (+0), 115 in Alva (+0), 83 on Fort Myers Beach (+0), 47 in Bokeelia (+1), 45 in Sanibel (+3), 27 in Saint James City (+0), 19 on Matlacha (+0), 17 in Tice (+0), five in Boca Grande (+0), five in South Fort Myers (+0), five in Miromar Lakes (+0), four in Buckingham (+0), three on Captiva (+0), three in San Carlos Park (+1), one in Bonita Beach (+0) and one in Immokalee (+0); 62 cases were not identified by community.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged from infants to a 103-year-old. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 435 (+4) deaths in Lee County; 235 (+4) of those deaths were reported in residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 94 COVID-19 patients isolated in system inpatient hospitals, including 6 new admissions and 7 discharges from Wednesday.

A total of 2,527 patients who had tested positive have been discharged since the beginning of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Lee Health had a 13.2% positivity rate on COVID-19 tests processed through Lee Health Labs. This represents Lee Health results only, not Lee County as a whole. Hospital positivity rates tend to be higher as the tests are performed on patients seeking treatment for a health issue, not the general public that includes asymptomatic individuals.

Census as of Thursday afternoon was at 86(+2)% of staffed operational bed capacity, with 7.8(+.1)% of those being COVID-19 patients. Staffed operational capacity reflects the number of beds for which the hospital has adequate staffing, not the total number of beds within Lee Health hospitals. Overall bed capacity fluctuates hour to hour as the system discharges patients throughout the day who are ready to go home.

As of Thursday, 71(-2)% of ventilators and 21(+11)% of ICU rooms are available for use across Lee Health facilities.

As of Thursday, there were 11 (-1) COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 20 (-1) in the intensive care unit.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urge all members of the public who are at risk to remain at home so as to limit exposure. All others are urged to observe social distancing and to wear a mask for all public interactions.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj